Archives for June 2012

Poems from Heaven

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Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 15:39 UK time, Thursday, 28 June 2012

Poetry Parnassus - a part of the London Cultural Olympics - is well underway.

Nearly 200 poets representing every Olympic nation have gathered in London in the biggest poetry event ever staged in the UK.

I am taking part in it too and in terms of highlights, allow me to mention two events.

World Poets at the World Service

Pahlavon Turgunov from the Uzbek Service at the World Poets at the World Service event

World Poetry at the World Service was the event in New Broadcasting House where leading modern poets from all continents read their poetry along with poets from the BBC World Service and members of the audience. It was a real feast of poetry in dozens of languages.

Another event to mention is The Rain of Poems, when a helicopter showered thousands of poems over the London Eye and Southbank.

I caught several poems and since it's the gift of Heaven (isn't poetry that gift indeed?) I would love to share them with you.

Selina Tusitala Marsh, Tuvalu
'Googling Tusitala'

Hotel kitano tusitala dot com
Tusitala bar and grill in Edinburgh
Tusitala built in 1883 Scotland
Tusitala publishing house a biography of recent psychodrama books
Deviantart tusitala's gallery chicago
52 brings
The sea slug forum reception at tusitala
57,092 brings
The tusitala bookshelf in Barcelona - there's no wrong way to eat a rhesus

The helicopter at the Rain of Poems event

The helicopter dropping poems at the Rain of Poems event

Didier Awadi, Senegal 'In my dream'

In my dream no nation are dominated
Nowhere in my dream is there land that's dominated
And the state is the hatred that is dominated
In my dream settlers are removed
In my dream colonies eliminated
I abolished the colonies of years of earth all colonies
In my dream the racists are eliminated
In my dream Xenophobes are eliminated
In my dream homophobes are eliminated
Anti-semites and camistes are eliminated...

People catching poems underneath the Rain of Poems event

Poetry - a gift of heaven

Clare Polard, UK

For Heshu Yones

For Banaz Mahmod

For Tuley Goren

For Samaira Nazir

For Asiyah Khan

Lady's bedstraw
For Shafilea Ahmed

For Uzma Rahan

London Eye looks closely at your flight

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Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 16:36 UK time, Friday, 22 June 2012

I was planning to write this week's entry about the event called 'World Poets at the World Service', but as often happens in the life of a journalist another story took place and I'll start by telling you that other story.

I had known for a while that on Tuesday 19 June Aung San Suu Kyi - a leader of the Burmese opposition - was coming to the World Service to meet the Burmese Service and thank them for their work.

On that morning I had many other engagements, and, coming back from the recording of Bush House Writers for Radio 4, I noticed on my way a Lebanese take-away restaurant.

I looked at the clock and saw that I had another 20 minutes to make my way to New Broadcasting House, where the meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi was taking place, so I decided to order a quick chicken wrap.

When you are in a hurry the world around you obviously slows down: the cook was extra meticulous, grilling all sides of the chicken kebab, sharing a joke with another customer, going on to discuss the forthcoming match between England and Ukraine with a third one and so on. It was quite evident that I'd be missing the meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi.

When the wrap was ready the clock was showing five to one and I charged towards New Broadcasting House.

In five minutes, sweaty but happy, I discovered that she hadn't yet arrived at the piazza in front of Broadcasting House and momentarily thought: 'At least I'll get a picture of her!'

I took the closest unoccupied position to the glass doors and prepared my handheld device.

A minute later our Director of BBC Global News Peter Horrocks came through the door and then Aung San Suu Kyi appeared behind him.

I pressed a button. The job was done.

But all of a sudden I realised that Peter was taking her towards me and was introducing me to her...

You can see in that picture I am holding an utterly inappropriate kebab in front of me just like a journalist's microphone.

Hamid holding a kebab and speaking to Aung San Suu Kyi

That isn't a microphone I'm holding

I must say that she was extremely gracious to me. She asked where I was from and when I said that I was from Uzbekistan - a country very similar to Burma - she sincerely said that she had never met any Uzbeks in her life.

I expressed my admiration for what she did and continues to do to bring freedom to Burma and she said that we must continue supporting her in that.

I will leave you to draw your own conclusions from this and let us return to the initial theme of 'World Poetry at the World Service'.

In one of my recent blogs I announced an event to which you could also contribute by sending your poems to me. Some readers have done that already and here are some of the poems I've received...

Dolapo Aina from Lagos, Nigeria:
A gathering of the world beginning with the touch and the golden flame,
Every athlete, prepared and eager to excel in every game,
And all wanting to succeed, not just for the money and fame.

Different people, diverse cultures, historical statistics all found at the Olympics,
Everyone is interested in volleyball and athletics to football and gymnastics,
For once, the world is abuzz with healthy hostilities devoid of politics.

While you see accomplished feats, celebrated by citizens of the concerned nation,
And I witness near-misses accompanied with contestants' groans of varied frustration,
The sheer human willpower is applauded by us, with a boisterous standing ovation.

Azam Abidov is from Tashkent, Uzbekistan:
You shifted from my soul, can you seize

On my spirit through volcanic stroke?

If slumber lulling grant us ticket-fees,

Can you - with me - fly to The Big Smoke?

The Millennium Dome would long for us,

It wishes we touched it gently with our hands,

That our love would light up and caress

The lives of over tens of lover friends.

If London Eye looks closely at your flight,

And Albert Hall embraces as a host,

Will at least retreat your sacred smart,

Will you feel so joyous at the most?

Say the lanterns on the Abbey Road

Summon you to the Olympic Games,

Aromatic blossoms will be thrown

At your feet to grace the blessed aims.

As Sherlock Holmes, when I disclose your mind,

Will you enliven the whole body of mine?

Will you settle down in my heart

Always treating as your timeless shrine?!

So you still have until next week to send me your poems to take part in the tournament of poets. Either send them to me here in the comments or to my Facebook page.

On the move

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Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 14:33 UK time, Friday, 15 June 2012

They say that poets and writers are usually rather capricious and have their peculiarities. Both in relation to the rest of the world and with regards to their occupation.

I can't talk on behalf of the whole trade, but I will give some examples from my own life and experiences.

In doing so, let me leave aside my relationship with the world, which is reflected in my books anyway, and concentrate on the trade of writing.

I can write anywhere: on the plane or at an airport, in the kitchen or a hotel room, but...

And here my oddities start: if I am writing a poem or a novel, I would never use a computer or a typewriter. I recognise just handwriting as the true form of writing.

A fountain pen

Better than a computer!

Moreover, I can't use just any type of paper or any type of pen. I must write on a page of cross-hatched paper with a fountain pen.

So in a way it's a ritual, though there is a certain rationale behind it. For me typing is a discrete and broken act, in which every letter comes on its own, whereas handwriting represents a flawless flow of my thoughts, though shaped by the grid on the paper.

A counterpoint to this incessant flow and something to shape the form is all you need. I feel completely lost in front of a blank white page.

Why am I telling you about such minute details of my writing technique? Just to make the point that a human being is a subtle instrument, whose tuning is sensitive to the smallest details of the outside world.

As you might know, the BBC World Service, including our team, have moved from Bush House to New Broadcasting House. It's been a major change for thousands of my colleagues. New building, new technology, new systems, a new way of working.

We moved at the beginning of this week and my assessment is that we are adjusting to the new place, but at the same time the new place and the new - extremely clever - technology is adjusting to us.

Lots of jokes, catchphrases, anecdotes to tell. One of my colleagues pointed out: "For people who moved five thousand miles to get this job another mile shouldn't matter too much!"

Another one commented that even the chairs in the studios make you feel more authoritative. In one of our programmes we've had a couple of minor glitches because a studio manager couldn't see the hand signals of the producer in the studio because the screen in front of her was too high up for her height.

However the keywords along with the mutual adjustment are 'buzz' and 'excitement'.

New Broadcasting House seen at night

New Broadcasting House

Since the entire World Service is now placed on one open-plan floor of what seems to be the biggest media hub in the world, it feels as if we have found ourselves in the middle of an oriental bazaar (I'll explore this metaphor further in one of my next entries).

I have already mentioned a word of caution: how subtle is the fine tuning of any human being.

But at the same time a human being is the most adaptive and flexible creature of all.

Personally, I have started to notice how with more and more of my entries - including this one - I am writing on my handheld device, either on the train or on the tube.

So we are well and truly on the move...

Is history a nightmare?

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Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 15:39 UK time, Thursday, 7 June 2012

Anna Akhmatova, a great Russian poet of the 20th century, once said "I wish you knew from what kind of rubbish grow poems".

The same is true of this entry. It started with me reading a hilarious little item. The Russian educational authorities have released the results of history exams in the country's schools and quotes from them were smuggled onto the net.

Some of them are pure gems and I can't resist sharing them with you.

  • "The Empress Catherine changed her favourites like stockings."
  • "Catherine exercised a policy of enlightened violence."
  • "Before collectivisation everyone starved on his own; after collectivisation all starved together."
  • "In the 40s on behalf of Khrushchev, Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico with an ice-breaker."
  • "In the USSR, those who did not go into severe Gulag camps were sent to the less severe pioneer camps."
  • "The enemies of Soviet power were called dividends. Dividend movements grew and enlarged."
  • "After the expulsion of Solzhenitsyn he moved his camp across the United States."
  • "It is easier for literate women it to find a husband, and easier for them to have a baby. Therefore literacy helped solve demographic problems."
  • "In modern Russia it all ended, as usual, in the lawlessness of those in power and a lack of food."

Apart from the fact that these quotations are quite funny, they also show the usual Russian way of treating history as something distant, irrelevant and mythological.

Solzhenitsyn in 1976

Solzhenitsyn is not remembered as a great camper

One only need remember how many times the flow of Russian history has been abruptly broken with a complete denial of the previous epoch to understand where this approach to history comes from.

I am not a royalist, monarchist or imperialist at all, but what was interesting to see during the Diamond Jubilee - or the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne - was that sense of history as a living reality.

Once, in Westminster Cathedral, seeing at my feet the entire history of royals buried there, I imagined what kind of responsibility Prince William must feel as a part of that still-living chain.

I was born in the USSR at a time shortly after Joseph Stalin's death. Nikita Khrushchev wiped him out of Soviet history, like Stalin had done before with Lenin and Trotsky, and just like Brezhnev afterwards with Khrushchev himself.

A cynical sense of historical opportunism rather than of a historic purpose was and still is prevalent in my part of the world.

I don't think that the monarchy is the only possible solution to keep this historical perspective unbroken and uncut. Yet it seems that that feeling of owning one's own history rather than renting it is somehow much stronger when embodied in a single person or institution with a successive tradition.

The Queen shortly after her coronation

Queen Elizabeth II shortly after her coronation in 1953, aged 25

Even this tradition is not black and white. Otherwise Shakespeare wouldn't have said, through his Hamlet "The time is out of joint" and James Joyce wouldn't have stated even more radically through Stephen Dedalus that history "is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake".

Although the reading of our historical past could differ in interpretations, we are doomed to it like trees are doomed to their roots...

The deeper the roots, the faster the flow through the trunk, the stronger the crown. Or is that another of those same infamous school exam quotes?

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